It began in 1898 as a health nostrum for the rich, but it soon would become the food for the masses and make its inventors household names.
The corn flake was developed by Will K. and John H. Kellogg at their Battle Creek, Mich., sanitarium, a health resort run under the auspices of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Since 1876, the Kelloggs had offered ground wheat and other "natural" foods to wealthy patrons. But the trouble with many grainbased health foods, then as now, was that they lacked taste, or even tasted bitter. To solve the problem, the Kelloggs steamed the corn kernel's grit, or heart, from its hull, dried the grit, then cooked it under pressure, adding malt flavoring and sugar. This mix was then dried and "flaked" by passing it through rollers.
The flakes were a hit with the clients of the "San," as it was called; one, C.W. Post, would later offer his own brand of corn flakes to the public. In 1906, Will Kellogg founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Co. and began promoting corn flakes aggressively; he did so over the objections of his physician brother, who believed that advertising the flakes violated medical ethics. (Will later was expelled from the Adventist church for worldliness, and he and his brother quit speaking in 1909).
An ad in the July 1906 Ladies' Home Journal for W.K. Kellogg's corn flakes brought a flood of new orders, and output at Battle Creek soared to 2,900 cases a day from 33 a day earlier in the year. Today, there are some 200 brands competing in the $5-billion-a-year U.S. dried-cereal market. At the top is Kellogg's Corn Flakes.